Q&A with Irish Scholar David Norris

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Photo Credit: Wikicommons.

A rare dialogue on global LGBT human rights comes to the Pride Center on Sunday.

Moderated by SFGN publisher Norm Kent and featuring Stuart Milk of the Harvey Milk Foundation and Ireland Senator David Norris, the dialogue is scheduled for Sunday, May 7 at 2 p.m. in auditorium B inside the Center’s Equality Park.

The longest serving member of Ireland’s Seanad (Senate), Norris is credited for repealing laws criminalizing gays. A member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Irish Parliament, he communicated with SFGN via e-mail through an aide while touring the Mediterranean sea island of Cyprus.

SFGN: Describe being gay in Ireland?

NORRIS: In my younger days there was a complete silence on the matter at best. The only rare occasions on which we heard about it was when there was a scandal. Now we have virtually complete equality, so I have helped make the transition in my lifetime from being a criminal for who I loved to being able to marry another man.

SFGN: When did momentum change for LGBT rights in Ireland?

NORRIS: There was always momentum from within the gay movement. As one of the movement's founders over forty years ago, I can acknowledge the excitement and euphoria we felt. The matter really caught on though for the general public with the marriage equality campaign a mere few years ago, with the referendum purposely scheduled and held on May 22 – Harvey Milk Day and Harvey’s birthday.

SFGN: What prompted you to join the fight for LGBT rights?

NORRIS: A sense of injustice and dismay that privileged members of the gay community in previous decades had done nothing. It seemed to me to be a matter of fundamental human rights and fundamental dignity.

SFGN: Where do you draw inspiration to get through difficult times?

NORRIS: From my personal religious beliefs and from a strong sense of personal integrity.

SFGN: How has James Joyce and Oscar Wilde’s work impacted society?

NORRIS: James Joyce says in ‘A Portrait of the Artist’ that “His young hero Stephen Daedalus wishes to forge in the smithy of his soul the uncreated conscience of his race.” Joyce anticipated many of the major questions of the 20th century. Oscar Wilde underneath the gaiety of his comedies was a scathing social critic and his martyrdom impacted and continues to impact European and world wide society.

SFGN: What’s your favorite shade of green?

NORRIS: The green of the Irish landscape.

SFGN: Who do you admire in current Irish culture?

NORRIS: Imelda May, John McGahem, Killian Murphy and Colin Farrell.   


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